The Holmfirth Flood
refers to a number of instances when severe flooding has occurred in the Holme Valley
, West Yorkshire
and other settlements in the valley. The earliest recorded one being in 1738 and the latest in 1944. The most severe flood
occurred early on the morning of 5 February
, when the embankment of the Bilberry reservoir
collapsed causing the deaths of 81 people. It is recorded as the 23rd most serious, worldwide, in terms of loss of life from floods and landslides
on the Armageddon Online - Deadliest Natural Disasters website
Rainstorms caused the River Holme
to burst its banks and flood the valley. Though there was damage to farmland there was no loss of life.
Following a severe storm on Wednesday 21 July
the River Holme burst its banks and flooded the valley. Three people were drowned and a stone church built in 1476 was swept away. It was rebuilt the following year with funding from local clothiers.
The River Holme again flooded the valley around Holmfirth, following rainstorms on 21 September
, with no loss of life.
The 1852 flood occurred when the embankment of the Bilberry reservoir collapsed, releasing 86 million gallons of water down the River Holme. It caused 81 deaths and a large amount of damage to property in the valley leaving many homeless and without work. The buildings and structures destroyed included 4 mills, 10 dye houses, 3 drying stoves, 27 cottages, 7 tradesmen’s houses, 7 shops, 7 bridges crossing the River Holme, 10 warehouses, 8 barns and stables. Numerous other buildings were damaged.
The collapse occurred at about 1.00am on the 5 February, 1852 following a period of heavy rain. The story of the flood made the front page of the London Standard newspaper.
An inquest after the disaster concluded that the reservoir was "defective in its original construction" and that "the Commissioners, in permitting the Bilberry reservoir to remain in a dangerous state with the full knowledge thereof, and not lowering the waste pit, have been guilty of great and culpable negligence".
On Whit Monday
, May 29
, flash flooding
following a severe thunderstorm
, caused the deaths of 3 people in the Holme Valley. Due to reporting restrictions
in place because of World War II
, it was not widely reported and was overshadowed by the invasion of Normandy
a week later. This led to some confusion as to the exact cause of the flood but it was confirmed that Bilberry reservoir was not to blame. It was suggested that the reservoir prevented the flood from being more severe. German prisoners of war
, housed in the area, assisted with the rescue of local residents and property. There was extensive damage to properties in the valley: 17 mills, 61 shops and 109 homes were flooded.
Geoffrey Riley (20 November, 1929 – 2005), who was aged 14 at the time of the event, was awarded the George Cross in recognition of his attempts to save the life of an elderly woman caught in the flood. Tragically, the woman, and Geoffrey's father who also tried to save her from drowning, both lost their lives in the flood. Geoffrey was initially awarded the Albert Medal. However, the Royal Warrant was discontinued in 1971 and he exchanged this for the George Cross at Buckingham Palace on 6 March, 1973.